Israeli Supreme Court Rulings
- See related article Israeli West Bank Barrier, Israeli Supreme Court Opinions.
On two occasions the Israeli government has been instructed by the Supreme Court of Israel to alter the route of the barrier to ensure that negative impacts on Palestinians would be minimized and proportional.
United Nations and International Court of Justice
- See related article International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In 2004, the United Nations passed a number of resolutions and the International Court of Justice, following hearings in which Israel did not participate, issued a non-binding and advisory opinion calling for the barrier to be removed and the Arab residents to be compensated for any damage done: “The Court finds that the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated régime are contrary to international law”. Israel had submitted a document stating that it did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ and supporting its claim that the issue of the barrier is political and not under the authority of the ICJ.
Opinions on the barrier
Israeli public opinion has been very strongly in favor of the barrier, partly in the hope that it will improve security and partly in the belief that the barrier marks the eventual border of a Palestinian state. Due to the latter possibility, the settler movement opposes the barrier, although this opposition has waned since it became clear the barrier would be diverted to the east of major Israeli settlements such as Ariel. According to Haaretz, a survey conducted by of the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, Tel Aviv University, there is an overwhelming support for the barrier among the Jewish population of Israel: 84% on March 2004 and 78% on June 2004.
Most Israelis believe the barrier, and intensive activity by the Israel Defense Forces, to be the main factors in the decrease in successful suicide attack from the West Bank. The proponents of the barrier insist that reversible inconveniences to Palestinians should be balanced with the threats to lives of Israeli civilians and point out that the barrier is a non-violent way to stop terrorism and save innocent lives.
However, there are some Israelis who oppose the barrier. Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, who was the last commander of the Gaza regional brigade of the IDF, has stated that the effectiveness of the barrier will only be short-term. “The fence provides a partial security response to the terror threats and a good response to prevention of illegal immigration and prevention of criminal acts,” he explains, “but on the other hand, in its current format it creates the future terror infrastructure because this terror infrastructure is precisely those people living in enclaves who will support acts of terror as the only possible tool that they perceive as being able to restore them the land, production sources and water wells taken from them.” Arieli also said that the barrier is designed to induce the Arabs of the border region to leave so that Israel can expand. (Haaretz, February 18, 2004)
Additionally, many Israelis living in settlements, such as Gush Etzion, oppose the fence because it separates them from the rest of Israel. They argue that building the fence defines a boarder, and that they are being left out. According to most settlers, all of the West Bank belongs to Israel, and separating any of it with a fence is the first step in giving the land away.
On August 17, 2005, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said of the barrier: “Sharon has tried in vain to describe it as ‘only another counterterrorism measure.’ Nevertheless, it looks like a border and behaves like one, with barbed wire, electronic devices, concrete walls, watchtowers and checkpoints. Its creation set a crucial precedent in the unilateral division of the land, which came to fit Sharon perfectly.”
Example of Banksy‘s artwork on the Palestinian side of the barrier.
The Palestinian population and its leadership are essentially unanimous in opposing the barrier. A significant number of Palestinians have been separated from their own farmlands or their places of work or study, and many more will be separated as the barriers near Jerusalem are completed. Furthermore, because of its planned route as published by the Israeli government, the barrier is perceived as a plan to confine the Palestinian population to specific areas, causing further humiliation. They state that Palestinian institutions in Abu Dis will be prevented from providing services to residents in the East Jerusalem suburbs, and that a 10-minute walk has become a 3-hour drive in order to reach a gate, to go (if allowed) through a crowded military checkpoint, and drive back to the destination on the other side.
More broadly, Palestinian spokespersons, supported by many in the Israeli left wing and other organizations, claim that the hardships imposed by the barrier will breed further discontent amongst the affected population and add to the security problem rather than solving it. Some Palestinian organizations and the International Solidarity Movement have organized nonviolent resistance to the construction of the barrier.
On April 14, 2004, American President George W. Bush said “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.” In direct reaction to Bush’s comments, the leadership of the Palestinian National Authority accused the U.S. of rewarding construction of the barrier and replied, “[t]he US assurances are being made at the expense of the Palestinian people and the Arab world without the knowledge of the legitimate Palestinian leadership. They are rewarding illegal occupation, settlement and the apartheid wall.”
Graffiti on the Palestinian side of walled sections of the barrier has consistently been one of many forms of protest against its existence. Large areas of the walls feature messages relating to the conflict, demanding an end to the barrier, or criticizing its builders and its existence (‘Welcome to the Ghetto-Abu Dis’). In August 2005, a graffiti artist named Banksy painted nine images on the Palestinian side of the barrier. He describes the barrier as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”.
Most international governments agree that Israel should have the right to self-defense, but oppose the construction of the barrier outside the 1949 armistice lines as a violation of Palestinian rights.
On July 25, 2003, President George W. Bush said “I think the wall is a problem. And I discussed this with Ariel Sharon. It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank.” The following year, addressing the issue of the barrier as a future border, he said in a letter to Sharon on April 14 2004 that it “should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.” President Bush reiterated this position during a May 26, 2005 joint press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the Rose Garden. For additional detail on Bush’s statements regarding final borders, see Road map for peace.
On February 18, 2004, The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power”.
On February 20, 2004 the World Council of Churches adopted a statement demanding that Israel halt and reverse construction on the barrier and strongly condemning what they believe to be violations of human rights and humanitarian consequences that have resulted due to construction of the barrier. While acknowledging Israel’s serious security concerns and asserting that the construction of the barrier on its own territory would not have been a violation of international law, the statement rejected what it saw as the creation of a new political boundary that confiscates Palestinian land.
On March 8, 2005 the United Nations held a two day International Meeting on the Question of Palestine. The participants of this meeting released a final document that, among other things, expressed serious concern at the Israeli government’s continuation of barrier construction, which they believe violates international law. The participants called on the international community “to adopt measures that would persuade the Government of Israel to comply with international law and the ruling of the International Court of Justice”.
On November 13, 2005 U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said that she supports the separation barrier Israel is building along the edges of the West Bank, and that the onus is on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism. “This is not against the Palestinian people,” Clinton, a New York Democrat, said during a tour of a section of the barrier being built around Jerusalem. “This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism.”
“The character of East Jerusalem is undergoing a major change as a result of the construction of the wall through Palestinian neighbourhoods. The clear purpose of the wall in the Jerusalem area is to reduce the number of Palestinians in the city by transferring them to the West Bank. This causes major humanitarian problems: families are separated and access to hospitals, schools and the workplace are denied. In November 2005, European Union missions in Jerusalem issued a report in which they accused Israel of embarking on the encirclement of the city by the wall in order to achieve ‘the completion of the annexation of Jerusalem’.”
Some speculate that because sections of the barrier are built not along the Green Line but well into the West Bank, the real purpose is to acquire territory. Some people describe the barrier as the de facto future border of the State of Israel. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, has said that the barrier has “unilaterally helped to demarcate the route for future Israeli control over huge West Bank settlement blocks and large swathes of West Bank land”. According to B’Tselem, “the overall features of the separation barrier and the considerations that led to determination of the route give the impression that Israel is relying on security arguments to unilaterally establish facts on the ground …” Chris McGreal in the Guardian writes that the barrier is, “evidently intended to redraw Israel’s borders”. The American Task Force on Palestine says “the construction of a wall meant to separate Israel from the largest concentrations of Palestinians on the West Bank is now well under way, walling in a significant amount of territory east of Jerusalem that even moderate Palestinians hope will be a part of a future state someday. It is, to use a well-worn phrase from the region, the essence of ‘creating realities on the ground’.” Some have speculated that the barrier will prejudice the outcome of border negotiations in favor of the Israelis.
Yossi Klein Halevy, Israeli correspondent for The New Republic, writes of the barrier that “[b]uilding over the green line, by contrast, reminds Palestinians that every time they’ve rejected compromise—whether in 1937, 1947, or 2000—the potential map of Palestine shrinks… The fence is a warning: If Palestinians don’t stop terrorism and forfeit their dream of destroying Israel, Israel may impose its own map on them… and, because Palestine isn’t being restored but invented, its borders are negotiable.”
On March 9, 2006, The New York Times reported acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying that if his Kadima party wins the upcoming national elections, he would seek to set Israel’s permanent borders by 2010, and that the boundary would run along or close to the barrier. The New York Times continues: “Israel has insisted that its West Bank separation barrier is being built solely as a security measure. But Mr. Olmert said it would also form the basis of a border.”
Some opponents of the barrier claim that building and maintaining the wall is a crime of apartheid – isolating Palestinian communities in the West Bank and consolidating the annexation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements.
The “wall” designation is also controversial because over 88% of the barrier is currently fence while only around 11.5% (urban sections, primarily near Jerusalem) is built as a wall of concrete slabs. The sections not yet built are mostly intended to be fence sections, with the final estimate being 95% fence and 5% wall.
Salim Tamari, the director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies has speculated that the wall may have a long-term benefit for Palestinians as “it will highlight the segmentation and apartheid situation that Palestinians are living, and mobilize more and more people against it.”
Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966 defines “racial discrimination” as meaning “any distinction, exclusion, restriction preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. This convention only requires States to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination. Another convention, the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973, goes further and criminalizes practices of racial segregation and discrimination that, inter alia, involve the infliction on members of a racial group of serious bodily or mental harm, inhuman or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest or the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of a racial group by denying to such a group basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to freedom of movement, when such acts are committed “for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”. Israel vehemently denies the application of these Conventions to its laws and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Despite this denial, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel’s laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Israelis are entitled to enter the closed zone between the Wall and the Green Line without permits while Palestinians require permits to enter the closed zone; house demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are carried out in a manner that discriminates against Palestinians; throughout the West Bank, and particularly in Hebron, settlers are given preferential treatment over Palestinians in respect of movement (major roads are reserved exclusively for settlers), building rights and army protection; and the laws governing family reunification unashamedly discriminate against Palestinians. It is less certain that the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid is violated. The IDF inflicts serious bodily and mental harm on Palestinians, both in Gaza and the West Bank :over 700 Palestinians are held without trial ; prisoners are subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment ; and Palestinians throughout the OPT are denied freedom of movement . Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Israelis) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose These previous sentences (strike) have been added recently. I have decided not to delete them to show how wikipedia can be harmful sometimes. Here we clearly have a POV (so by definition, one-sided), without any sources and/or balanced views, that contrasts in style with the rest of the article. Thank you wikipedia for letting any weirdo change reality.